Paso Robles’ police protection dwindling

February 4, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: See Paso Robles Police sworn officers: a current list of department sworn staff; and Paso Robles’ Service Reduction Plan, a mandated plan for reduced police services at the bottom of this story.

By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN

Rattled by a recent spike in violent crime, several Paso Robles police officers are questioning the impact the department’s current policy of not always responding to some criminal activities is having on public safety.

Paso Robles has been operating under a reduced police presence for the past year, with stringent new policies requiring that officers not respond to reports of drug activity, driving under the influence, and incidents of vehicular hit and run, whenever the department is operating in “safety mode.”

City Manager Jim App and Chief Lisa Solomon enacted a police department service reduction plan in January 2011 that mandates officers not respond to a long list of crimes during times the department is short-staffed. In addition, the plan changes some day-to-day police response and investigation policies.

For example, during the past year, property thefts with a loss of of $10,000 or less — if not solved immediately by the responding patrol officer — are not forwarded to a detective for further investigation, according to the plan.

“They have taken away officer discretion,” said one officer who asked to remain unnamed to protect him from retaliation. “It (the service reduction plan) is absolutely affecting public safety.”

Due to budget cuts, the department has been thinned from an approved 46 sworn officers in 2007, to 26 officers today.

As a result, the department operated in safety response mode for 587 hours during the past 12 months, said Jim App, the city manager.

That was because of a prior hiring freeze, minus several officers who were placed on paid administrative leave for between four to six months each, and officers who retired or were forced to resign.

During safety mode, only two patrol officers are available to take calls. Dispatchers do not send an officer to 18 types of crimes including battery that is not in progress, theft reports when a suspect is not in custody, drug activity, family disturbances and DUI calls.

“The safety/service response levels were implemented to ensure safety to the public and officers,” App said. “It allows for delayed response to low-level service calls in order to maintain staffing for immediate response to emergency or in-progress calls for service.”

App said he informed city council members of the reduction in services not long after the new program was put into practice.

Councilman Ed Steinbeck said he agrees “that we need to prioritize calls depending on what else is happening at the moment.”

Nevertheless, several officers claim that while Solomon has reduced drug and DUI responses, she is reprimanding officers who do not write enough high-dollar traffic tickets to comply with a questionable ticket quota system further reducing their ability to combat drug and gang activity.

During the past year, Paso Robles’ violent and gang-related crimes have soared with a rash of drug and/or gang-related crimes, including murders, stabbings, robberies, assaults and drive-by shootings.

As a result, officials last year organized a multi-agency task force with a goal of identifying and arresting gang members. During Labor Day weekend, law enforcement personnel including San Luis Obispo County Sheriff deputies blanketed Paso Robles as they rolled out their “Safe Streets” campaign, making 35 arrests and issuing 30 traffic citations.

“We will bring together all resources at my disposal and introduce additional law enforcement partners, including FBI, California Highway Patrol, Monterey County Sheriffs, Probation and Parole, as well as enhancing our local gang task force,” said Sheriff Ian Parkinson during a press conference he held with Solomon in September. “I do not intend to allow this kind of activity in the North County.”

Sheriff department officials did not respond to numerous requests for information regarding the current disposition of the Safe Street campaign and how much assistance the top county law enforcement agency is providing the understaffed Paso Robles Police department.

County wide, law enforcement agencies are short-staffed, mostly by one or two officers. Even so, officials with the county’s other six cities said their police departments are not operating under service reduction plans or safety modes.

 

Paso Robles Police Department sworn officers:

Currently, the Paso Robles Police Department includes 26 sworn officers:

1 chief
1 captain
2 lieutenants
5 sergeants
2 detectives
13 patrol officers
2 patrol officer trainees

 

Paso Robles’ Service Reduction Plan:

PPDSRMemorandum


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Maxfusion

Appears that Lisa is struggling to keep her head above water.


MaryMalone

That’s sad because hot-tubs aren’t very deep.


Has she thought of standing up?


mkaney

I would like to see some actual numbers supporting the increase in crime in Paso Robles. I have not been able to find any numerical data supporting this.


danika

Would the data you are seeking include those calls there were received and not followed up on? If not, the stats would be flawed.


mkaney

I assure you that when it comes to reporting stats, the police department has almost no incentive to under-report, lest they lose funding, grants, equipment, justification for higher salaries, assistance from the feds for asset seizure, etc.. etc..


Maxfusion

Lisa’s hands on management skills will come in handy as they grope for a solution.


Jack L

Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.

William S. Burroughs


Crusader

Did you all happen to read Paso Councilmen Steinbeck and Strong’s comments on this matter?


Absolutely chilling…


http://calcoastnews.com/2012/02/simultaneous-protests-for-paso-robles/


“I”m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”


MaryMalone

QUOTING THE ARTICLE: “Due to budget cuts, the department has been thinned from an approved 46 sworn officers in 2007, to 26 officers today.


As a result, the department operated in safety response mode for 587 hours during the past 12 months, said Jim App, the city manager.


That was because of a prior hiring freeze, minus several officers who were placed on paid administrative leave for between four to six months each, and officers who retired or were forced to resign.”


=====


Just to put it in perspective…


Compared to 2007, at the end of 2011, there were 57% less officers in the department than in 2011.


There has been an average of 5 officers/year lost to the PD.


The percent decrease from 2007 to 2008 was 11%

…from 2008 to 2009: 12%

…from 2009 to 2010: 14%

…from 2010 to 2011: 16%


If you look at a graph of the steady decrease in officers in the PD, it’s like we’re looking at the road to “and then they were none.” Can’t imagine how demoralizing that must be for the officers left to see the steady decrease in the numbers of officers in the department.


%difference formula: [old number – new number) / old number] X 100


highdude

Here’s the deal. During a recent meeting Jim App told city employees the city was now operating in the Black with a near $1,000,000 surplus. This is true! A city in CA that is actually solvent. Now you may ask how can this be, well it’s obvious. App and Solomon came up with a strategy to reduce PD staff because they are the highest paid of all personnel and administration within the city. What you did not see was a reduction in supervision staff in the PD.


For those that like math that equates to 1.9 officers per Supervisor. WTF is wrong with this picture??? Anybody want to guess who Capt. Burton supervises? Here’s the answer; two lieutenants. This is not the correct way to administer Supervision, this is Kingdom Building 101.


And here’s the kicker; App and Solomon did this knowing they would possibly sacrifice the safety of police personnel and the citizens of Paso. They willingly rolled the dice and LOST BIG TIME!!! They had a spike in murders and gang activity, which will take them years to recover from. Thanks to Sheriff Parkinson and the men he brought into town! The bad guys hit the road either willing or went to jail, and that’s what cop work is all about.


City Council, you need to get off your asses and get to work and the run the city in a manner that is beneficial to the people who put you in office. If you were completely unaware of this internal investigation until it broke in the news like Mayor Picanso said he was, you have lost complete control of the City Manager.


I get so mad when incompetence tries their hand in leadership!


Where’s my bong? I need a calming hit!


Crusader

Excellent insight. One of the finest postings on this matter that I have yet to see. Why not read it in front of the city council tomorrow night? Insight like this will really make people begin to think about what’s going on. Thanks.


highdude

Oh yah here’s another one; App has allowed the Police Chief to contract with a consultant on how to rebuild the PR Police Dept. after she did her best to assist in the current implosion, and guess who’s paying the bill?? The citizens of Paso Robles, that’s right. Let’s pay her to tear it down and then pay more to rebuild it!


WTF!!!


Man I am so pissed I need two bong hits!


MaryMalone

She wants to get a toady consultant so she can dictate the “findings.” Having worked in a local area government agency, I’ve seen this in action.


The Gimlet Eye

That sounds a lot like the US Congress and its monster, the FED.


hotgrandma

I don’t live in Paso Robles but I do (or did) frequently go to the restaurants and shops. Mary, you and Crusader might point out to the Chamber of Commerce that families like mine won’t take our dollars where we don’t feel safe. You can bet the Council listens to the business community.


As a side note: I was several places in my community yesterday and was very grateful to see two black and white cars and the motorcyle officer. I wish you all the best of luck in your protests. Does anyone have any information on the school money apparently missing.


Cindy

Mary, If you’re going to bring this up at the council meeting tonight, remember that while there was an approval for a staff of 46 sworn Officers in 2007, 5 of those approved positions were not filled due to a hiring freeze. Solomon started in 2007 with 41 sworn Officers, not 46.


I’m only mentioning this because it’s important for the City Council to recognize that the Citizens are paying close attention and are fully comprehensive to detail. Otherwise it leaves them room (later when they’re questioned) to say that the comments were not accurate or the citizens were misinformed.


I hope you go “get em” tonight. I’ll be arriving late, around 8:30 as I have another important commitment. Hopefully, public comment will still be in process by the time I get there. That reminds me, I have to dig out my red sweater ;)


MaryMalone

Right now I’m waiting to hear from my father-in-law about my mother-in-law. She’s at the stage in her life where she is going downhill pretty quickly. We may have to drive over to Tehachipi this evening, when husband is done with his classes.


I plan to attend, but may end up assisting FIL with hospital issues, giving moral support, etc.


Maxfusion

Relax, Lisa will have this problem licked in no time.


Crusader

Pun intended? ;)


Maxfusion

They need to work on that hot tub to crime scene response time.


rogerfreberg

New York City was able to reduce crime by placing a uniformed law endorsement officer on virtually every corner… however, for most localities this is impractical.


At a minimum and looking ahead, we are all responsible for our own protection and of our loved ones. The bad guys and gals know how to protect themselves, but do you? This is not a time to be ‘fearful’, but to look at the world honestly and take the steps that will give you the best opportunity to protect yourself, those you love and resist bad things happening to you.


Nearly a quarter of all women own a hand gun and know how to use it … does that say anything to you?


I agree that there are big troubles in Paso… but I hope no one ever thought they’d make it to your door in the nick of time? This only happens in the movies.


Crusader

“…uniformed law endorsement officer…”?


We need some of those here locally ;)


MaryMalone

I think this argument ends up shifting the blame for the crime in Paso on the citizens, when the citizens have paid handsomely for the police department and its resources, including its personnel.


I don’t know the rate for the police arriving on the scene at the “nick of time.” Indeed, I don’t even know what the “nick of time” would be.


However, I do know that the fact that officers ARE responding would serve as a deterrent in and of itself.


I don’t think the citizens of PR envisioned their PD and its chief being a public-relations outreach group, putting on pretty–but, very unfortunately, increasingly meaningless–uniforms and pimping wine fairs and expos.


That’s some high-priced public-relations folks there, and poorly trained for it, too. All of their training for their job has been in the line of law enforcement, not being schmarmy Sham-Wow types for the City of PR.


Finally, I don’t think women owning guns is the answer to a local PD being unable to do its job, and it is a dangerous proposition to even attempt to try to connect the two.


For a firearm to be your protection, you have to have significant training and experience on when to use it and when not to. In addition, you have to have the damned thing with you, and I don’t know any woman who packs her .45 around the house, or even has it easily accessible (since women often have children with them). AND, if you do have it on you, you have to make sure, if you go to use it, that your target does not overpower you and take your firearm because, especially for a woman with their child with them, that is when they really become vulnerable. A woman will do most anything to keep her child from being harmed.


The Gimlet Eye

Perhaps the citizens of Paso have paid TOO handsomely for their safety. From the looks of things, I don’t think they are being well served.